The Master Is Not A Stingy, Harsh, Rough, Jerk!

Text:  Matthew 25:14-30 

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
In today’s Gospel reading we encounter another parable from Jesus.  In this parable, that is (to say) this story, we hear of a master who is planning on going on a long trip.  However, before leaving, the master entrusts his talents—his wealth and assets—to three particular servants.  He gives five talents to one servant, which would be about $5,000,000 in our day and age.  He then gave two talents to another servant, which is about $2,000,000.  And finally he gave one talent to the last servant, which is about $1,000,000. 
Yes, he entrusts these talents—these monetary units of wealth—to three servants, until he would return from his long trip. 
After returning from his long trip, he calls these servants to give an account of what they did with his resources.  The first man showed that he doubled the master’s talents.  The second man came forth and showed that he doubled the talents as well.  The third man, however, came forth and gave the master the original talent that was entrusted to him.  This talent, unlike the other talents, was a bit different.  It was different because it was covered in dirt.  You see, upon originally receiving this talent the servant tossed it in a hole to hide it.  In other words, this third man decided to conceal the talent in the ground for safe keeping.  He didn’t lose a cent, it was returned completely to the master, though it was a bit dirty from being buried in the ground. 
It would be easy for us at this point to grab a hold of our calculators and spreadsheets to compare the amount of worth given to each of these servants, rank their financial returns on these assets, and focus on their profit increase.  Otherwise stated, it would be easy to debate who was the wisest investor among the three servants.  Thus, we could make the main point of this parable sound something like this,
“How much did the servants multiple the master’s resources; how much are you multiplying the Lord’s talents?” 
Yes, it would be easy to make the main focus of this parable focus on how much we have been given by the Lord and how much we are putting these spiritual and physical talents to use. 
There are two problems with this focus though. 
First, it is very tempting to get a yardstick out or a scale and start measuring, comparing, and categorizing the gifts that we have been given and received by faith.  It would be easy to rush to accounting principles to gauge, record, and document everything that we have been given without realizing that five talents, two talents, and one talent are all tremendous amounts already.  In other words, we need to recognize that whether we are dealing with five talents, two talents, or one talent, that a talent is no small chunk of change for an unworthy servant.  Indeed, the Master’s talents, that is (to say), the Lord’s salvation and various gifts that have been given to you and me are poured out upon who?  Yes, upon us sinners; sinners who do not deserve a single talent, let alone deserve to be even classified as a servant; we don’t deserve anything.  Thus, to have any talents at all is tremendous!  When we start comparing the amount of talent we tread upon foolishness.    
The second problem is that this parable is not primarily about the amount of return that was produced by the servants.  You see, was not the servant who gained 2 talents praised equally with the servant who gained 5 talents?  Yes, they were equally praised even though their gain was different! 
So, if this text is not mainly about the amount of talents given and the amount of talents returned, what can we glean from today’s Gospel reading?
Dear friends, do you realize that the Lord loves to pour out grace upon grace, for that is what is done in the parable and that is what is done for us.  Yes, we see that the main point in this parable is the master simply handing over eight-million-bucks to his servants as they await His return.  In other words, the Lord is a tremendous, marvelous, and remarkable giver of talents, a remarkable giver of salvation and other gifts to you and to me.  Truly, truly, salvation is poured out upon you at your baptism, it is spoken to you in the Word, and delivered to you on our tongues in the Lord’s Supper.  Furthermore, you are entrusted with gifts in our vocations to use and to enjoy, and gladly show what we make and do with these great gifts!  
This was the case of two of the servants.  They received talents as a gift to manage and they invested the wealth, even though they were not commanded to invest it.  Truly, these servants were honored and entrusted with this great wealth and property because the master in his generosity turned it all over to them.  When the master returned from being away I get the impression that these two servants were excited to share all that happened as a result of the master’s generous entrusting of gifts to them.
As you have already heard, this was not the case with the one servant though.  No, he hid the treasure, it was stuck in a hole in the ground.  Why did this servant do this?  Listen to his justification,
“Master, I knew you to be a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” 
Did you hear that?  This servant saw the master as a stiff, stingy, rough, harsh, jerk.  Furthermore, because of the way that he saw the master he became afraid, wanted to protect himself, and played it safe.  Think about this for a moment.  The master lavished over $8,000,000 upon his servants; he entrusted this great wealth to them and comes home to hear,
“I played it safe master because you are a stingy, harsh, rough, jerk of a master who I don’t trust and I didn’t want to tic you off any more than you already naturally are.” 
What an insult to the master! 
My friends, lest we become too judgmental of the foolish and wicked servant, may I remind you and me that this is an exact picture of us.  You and I are that man.  Oh, yes, the Lord pours out grace upon grace upon us.  As a result, “Such a bounty is hard to bear for shriveled sinners who won’t be given to but who insist on taking over and getting control.”[1]  Otherwise stated, instead of receiving gifts from the Lord freely and joyfully, we resort to the disposition of the one wicked servant.  Inevitably what happens is that we receive grace and gifts from the Lord—gifts that seem too good to be true—which then results in us taking out yardsticks to measure how much we have received, comparing our stash of gifts to other people, and then insist on getting control over these gifts, as if they are our own personal possessions.  We measure, tally, catalog, and quantify what we receive from the Lord because we begin to believe that we are spiritual and physical owners of the Lord’s gifts rather than receives of the Lord’s gifts.  We think to ourselves,
“The Lord can’t possibly be ‘that’ generous; surely there are limits on His gifts.  Thus we better preserve, monitor, catalog, and conserve what we have been given.  In fact, why don’t we just claim these gifts as if they are our own, that way we can have more control over them; that way we can keep a closer eye on ‘our’ possessions!  Yes, ‘our’ possession; that sounds so much better! 
Dear friends, the Lord is a great giver of gifts.  Everything that we have—including salvation—is pure and total gift from Him.  This means that we are terribly mistaken when we fail to remember that all of these gifts and talents are the Lord’s; we create a different God and break the First Commandment when we do not believe that the Lord lavishes and entrust talents to us to receive, enjoy, and often times use.  Indeed, we do not see the Lord correctly when we hijack the Lord’s gifts and talents as if they are our own possessions and when we fail to see that the Lord is truly a generous, kind, and great master.
Frankly put, “If you make [God] into a hard man who infringes your rights, who demands what He has the right to demand, then that is how you will get it from Him. . . . We make God our enemy when we clutch what we have as our own for ourselves.  Then [God becomes] a threat to us.  Others are, too, against whom we must protect ourselves and what we have.”[2]  This is the way of the servant who hid the talent.  He lived in fear and protected the talent, which resulted in a slothful, idolatrous, hand clinching sinful disposition.  This is the spirit of Cain, the nature of our sinful flesh, it is the way of the old Adam. 
Baptized Saints this is not what God wants.  It is not who God is.  It is not who you are as blood-bought-baptized-washed-beloved-forgiven-servants. 
Baptized Saints our Lord God does not operate like Wall Street.  Our Lord God is not stingy in His gifts to us.  The Lord’s salvation flows freely from Calvary to you, which means that there is no end to His grace, no condition to His grace.  With forgiveness and grace there is no empty bottom to fear.    
“The reason Christ gives gifts to people lie in the fact that He Himself was delivered—delivered into death and damnation for our sins. . . .  As a result of His deliverance into death for our sins, Jesus has ‘delivered us from so great a death’ (2 Cor. 1:10) and ‘has delivered us from the power of darkness’ (Col. 1:13).”[3]
Indeed, this parable really has more to do about how we see the Master than the rates of return that we get for the Master.  It has more to do about the character and disposition of the master towards His servants.
Giver of all we have, forgive us and help us to recognize that truly everything that we own belongs to you.  Teach us to use Your gifts wisely, so that we may be a blessing to others.
What all of this means is that the Lord is not harsh and you do not have to be afraid.  Surely, no need to panic, for Christ-crucified and His gifts are given to you.  No need to be driven by dread, for Christ-crucified and His gifts are free. No need for a yardstick, for Christ-crucified and His gifts cannot be measured, they are too big.  No need to compare with your neighbor, for Christ-crucified and His gifts are yours.
Gifts, gifts, gifts, to you and me.  Small gifts, big gifts, gifts of salvation, gifts in our vocations, all different and unique—all for you.  The Lord “gives so many, so we can share His joy of giving for using and sharing together.  [You who have ears,] enter into the joy of our Lord!  To Him be all our joyful praise through happy, giving, sharing days.”[4]         
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermon of Norman Nagel (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 252.
[2] Ibid, 252-253.
[3] Francis C. Rossow, Gospel Handles: Finding New Connections in Biblical Texts (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2001), 93.
[4] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel, 254-255.

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